Country music artists are rallying around the storm ravaged south. On April 27, 2011, tornadoes tore through the southeast. The vicious storms left a wake of destruction and devastation in their path. Thousands were left homeless, entire towns were decimated, family members frantically searched for their loved ones….the images shown on television hardly capture the true extent of the damage.
Unfortunately, the media coverage of the storm aftermath waned in light of the royal wedding and the death of Osama Bin Laden. Country music legend Hank Williams Jr. was determined the storm victims would not be left behind. Hank stated, “People are looking for their kids and family members. This is the second worst natural disaster in the US since 1932. The media, in general, have decided to cover and exploit the royal wedding instead of showing the devastation the people of Alabama are going through.” Hank Williams Jr. surveyed the damage first hand in north and central Alabama. He could not believe what he was seeing. “There’s no way to describe. My buddies told me, ‘When you get here and see it, you’ll wonder how it didn’t kill thousands. I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime.” Hank knew he had to do something to help.
Hank aggressively sought a way to bring both media coverage and relief to the south. He reached out to CMT and arranged a relief telethon (CMT’s Music Builds). The televised concert featured Hank, Alabama, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Ronnie Dunn, Sara Evans, Little Big Town, Gretchen Wilson, Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw. To date, the Red Cross has received around $10 million towards Alabama relief efforts but estimates say the state will need around $32 million for storm restoration.
Other stars who are stepping up to show their support for tornado relief are Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney. Brad will donate 100 percent of his artist royalties from iTunes sales (and various digital download arenas) of his single “Old Alabama” to the American Red Cross. Taylor announced she will sell tickets to the final dress rehearsal for her new tour, Speak Now.Taylor’s “Speak Now…Help Now” show will grant 100 percent of ticket sales to help tornado victims. Last, Kenny Chesney announced he will not cancel his late May tour date in Tuscaloosa, Al. Kenny wants to turn the show into a benefit for Alabama, donating all concert fees to GiveTuscaloosa.com.
While many stars have voiced their pleas for assistance, the most heartfelt appeal came from legendary country band, Alabama. Randy Owen urged the American public to pray for Alabama, “Our state is devastated. There’s no way to describe the destruction that’s gone on.” Owen continued, “Til you’ve seen it, you can’t even comprehend what our people are going through. You’ve got people who don’t know where their relatives are, don’t know where their children are, don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”
For this writer, the images shown on television and during CMT’s telethon could hardly encompass the massive destruction that has left my homestate of Alabama devastated. The victims who are living in tents on their property and rummaging through rubble to find any memento not ruined by the tornado is a haunting memory I cannot turn away from. Tornado recovery will be a long journey but I know my Alabama brothers and sisters have a strong southern spirit that no storm can destroy. I could not hold back the tears during the CMT telethon when Alabama sang lyrics that now hold a new meaning for me and so many others, “My Home’s in Alabama/No matter where I lay my head/My home’s in Alabama/Southern born and southern bred.”
If you would like to make a donation to aid tornado victims or want to volunteer for storm clean up please visit: